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Brandt Branch


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The Bonfield Branch of the tree originated in Kilrush Parish, Killaloe Diocese, County Clare, Ireland. Thomas Bonfield was christened 28 Dec. 1830. His parents were Michael Bonfield and Mary Julian. Michael was born in 1803 in County Clare, Ireland and Mary was born circa 1805 in County Clare, Ireland as well.

This Branch consists of many surnames, which include but limited to, Frumveller, O'Connell, Kennedy, Moran, McGuire, Cowan, Monahan, Shaugnessy, Ryan, McMahon, and O'Malley.

The following article is from Thomas A. Bonfield on his recollection of growing up in the 1920's in Chicago.

I was born in Chicago on Aug 18, 1904 of Irish decent. Three of my grandparents came from Ireland. If any one asked me what I would be if I wasn't Irish, I would tell them "ashamed of myself". My father's uncle Captain John (Black Jack) Bonfield commanded the police in the Haymarket Square riots in Chicago in the 1880's. My grandmothers name was Mary O'Connell and she was a close relative of Daniel O'Connell, the great Irish patriot and statesman. I went to Parker High School one year of a two year Business course. I quit because the teachers got paid and I had to do the work. I feel that we who finished 8th grade in the 20's, received a better, more rounded education then some college graduates today. We would take 10 to 12 subjects per day, heavy on the 3 R's, Spelling, History, Geography, Civics, manual training (boys), cooking (girls) and anything else the teachers could think up. I think its just short of criminal to drop history and geography from the curriculum. How do we know where we are going if we don't know where we have been and how can we deal with people and countries if we don't know where they are located?

I started work a few months before I turned sixteen, working for the N.Y. Central legal dept. as a clerk and typist. My main job was copying legal briefs. In 1922 I went to work for the Michigan Central Railroad again as a clerk. At that time Chicago was the largest RR center in the world and RR's were probably the nations largest companies and employed the most people. In 1923, I went to work for the Kalman Steel Co. as a bookkeeper. They were at that time, the largest supplier of concrete reinforcing steel and specialities in the U.S. That was where I first used a Monroe Calculator, where you turned a crank clockwise to add and counter clockwise to subtract. In 1924 I transferred to the Kalman Floor Co. In the next couple of years I went from bookkeeper to accountant to superintendent and began my travels. We were for many years the only quality cement floor company in the construction business. Until 1970 when I retired, I supervised the installation of about 37 million sq. ft. of floor in every type of bldg. I hired, paid and laid off between 15 and 20 thousand workers from Montreal to Venezuela, Boston to Roswell, N.M. and just about everything in between.

The area where I lived on the south side of Chicago was middle class, predominately Irish with some German. Al Capone's home was in this neighborhood, and I recall kneeling in the same pew with his wife at mass. She always dressed in black and wore a veil. I got to know Al's kid brother, not well since he was several years older than I was, but enough to say hello. On one occasion, I was waiting for a streetcar and this big black Limo pulled up, the door opened and Al's brother asked me where I was going. I told him and he said "get in" that he was going that way; so I had a ride in Al Capone's bullet proof Lincoln.

In 1920, the 18th amendment came into effect - Prohibition. A few of the guys I knew drove trucks loaded with booze from Canada for $1000 per trip until the hijackers got too dangerous. Speakeasy's became very popular, they were of course run and prtected by the gang who ruled the area where they were located. They took very good care of their customers and you had nothing to fear, as very few "innocent bystanders" were ever hurt, even though they killed each other. I roamed all over Chicago, at all hours of the day and night, with never a fear. These "speaks" had various ways of identifying their customers. One I know, when I went in and sat at a table, the waiter would put a plain white card on the table, I would sign it and he would check their card file and verify my signature. The local police never bothered them as long as they only killed each other. Most "speaks" served your drink in a heavy coffee cup so if the "Feds" raided the place, you just knocked the cup off the table, no evidence, no arrest. In 1925, I began to travel so my Chicago experience about ended. While working in Detroit, Davenport, Iowa, Baltimore, N.Y., Allentown, Washington D.C., and Philly, it was no problem getting a drink, in fact, it was hard to avoid it. It became the smart thing to do and the more joints you knew the more popular you were. Any "Bellhop" or "Taxi driver" could supply your needs very quickly. In Baltimore and the southern cities of Louisville & Memphis, if you asked a "bellhop" for a bottle he would probably bring you a "Mason" jar full of corn whiskey. While working in NY one of the men took me to Hoboken, NJ, to watch a bootlegger make gin. He filled the bath tub so full of water, X gallons, added X gallons of grain alcohol, then X quanity of glycerin, X quanity of juniper berry juice, got his proper shape Gordons Dry Gin bottles and filled them, put on the Gordon's labels, corks, revenue stamps and "Voila" sold it as right off the boat smuggled in from England.

In the late teens and twenties, the people were not very mobile, the auto was not too dependable and the roads went from bad to terrible. The majority of the people never traveled far, most never more than 100 miles from where they were born. The RR's were about the only means of travel for people or things. The only thing I can say about airplane travel is that you arrived faster. The food is mediocre at best. The RR and Pullman cars were 1st class. You went to sleep in a nice berth, left your shoes under your berth, and in the morning they were all shined. The porter would awaken you in the morning, you would go to the lavatory, shave, put on a clean shirt and you were ready for the day. You would go to the dining car and get a wonderful breakfast, anything you could want, and service you can not get today. If you got tired of your seat you could go to the club car and have a drink, no liquor during prohibition, sit in a lounge chair and watch the scenery go by in solid comfort.

People did not care about what took place in other parts of the world even other parts of the U.S. The average person felt that we should keep our nose out of foreign affairs. We were safe behind our oceans. Hitler was made fun of on stage and screen, he was considered just a nutty German. Wm Hale Thompson, Mayor of Chicago, was very anti-British.

The movies came into their own in the 20's along with the large vaudeville theaters. The transportation was the street car, which you rode when you had a date and the devoted RR. I saw Burns & Allen at a movie palace, Fred & Adele Astair dance in a revue on the stage and Jack Benny at a vaudeville theatre. I was so busy having a good time, I had little chance to read anything but the newspaper. We had so many things to do and people were close. When we finished supper, we would go to the school yard and choose sides to have a pick up ball game. There was almost always a small carnival within walking distance of 2 miles. These small carnies would pick a vacant piece of ground, put up a Merry-go-round and a small ferris wheel. These were run by small steam engines. They would have a dance hall and of course "games of chance". In the late teens and twenties these carnies were loaded on wagons and pulled by horses from place to place. They would usually set up for a week or two. There must have been hundreds of them running around the country. Another thing I did when I was in my late teens, was several of us would go over to someone's house and gather around the piano and sing. We also had many types of theaters, Burlesque (girly), Burlesque (stock), theaters with plays, some with revues and of course the movie palaces. I saw Gypsy Rose Lee, Ann Corio and Ada Leonard in Burlesque. We did a lot of dancing. Chicago had very large dance halls and each could handle hundreds of dancers, and there were smaller ones scattered all over the city. In the summer we would take a boat, on which we could dance, at Jackson Park, sail out into Lake Michigan, land at Navy Pier, dance there for about an hour, then dance back to Jackson Park.

Harding was one of our worst presidents. One of his cabinet members was sent to prison (after he resigned), which I believe was the only time in history this has happened. Coolidge was one of our worst, if not the worst, presidents we have ever had. He was known as "Silent Cal". I am sure he belived in the old adage "It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Under Harding we had "Teapot Dome" and Coolidge got up on the radio and said "Don't sell our country short" to get people to invest in the market, when every economist was predicting the crash. Although the crash had no effect on me, enjoying my money and having a good time, one person I knew was hit hard. He worked at Kalman as an accountant, he had $50,000 (a lot of money at that time) one day and the next day they (bonds) were worthless. I remember as early as 1927, if I needed one man for work I would have my choice of 20 and in 1928 that increased to 50. The papers carried more and more stories of men stealing to feed their families. I watched in 1930, from my office window on the 14th floor of the Wrigley Bldg., while hundreds of people wanted to demonstrate in front of the Tribune Tower for "bread", when they tried to cross Michigan Ave. bridge, the mounted police rode them down and clubbed them. Many deputies armed with pick handles helped beat them. As I would go to work in the mornings on the lower level of the Michigan Bridge, the loading docks along side the bridge would be covered with men lined up like "cords of wood" with only newspapers for covering in -18 degree weather. At this time, Al Capone had opened many "soup kitchens" all over Chicago to feed the hungry. I did not pay much attention to the nineteenth amendment, as I always felt, still do, that women are better than men and are qualified to do anything. My teachers were all women and I gave them all a hard time, but in spite of everything they pounded some knowledge into my thick skull and belive me, they earned my respect. In 1917 I had a near fatal illness and a woman doctor stayed with me for 48 hours and pulled me through.

I loved a sport called Six Day Bicycle Racing. A team of 2 riders would race their teams for six days. My heroes were Goulet, Brocco and McNamara. I would go right from work, get there about 6:30-7:00 pm and if my hero was doing well, I would stay until I was kicked out at 5am. I would then go to the office, pull up a couple of chairs and nap until time to go to work at 8:30. I would do this two or three times during the next six days. They had 4 of these races a year, 2 in NY and 2 in Chicago (Spring and Fall).

I never thought much abount Lindberg. I felt he was a grandstander and was only interested in self acknowledgement. I greatly admired Admiral Byrd. He did a great deal for aviation and his country.

My opinion of the KKK was the same then that it is today - "They are a bunch of ignorant white trash that have nothing to point to but their white skin".

Communications were bad nationally, most papers were just filled with local news except for something sensational. Then people began to flock to the cities to find work. I did not realize I was in a unique position, I was hiring people from so many different areas (NY City, Baltimore, Charlottesville, Toledo, Louisville, Chicago and Minneapolis). At that time, there were very few who hired and worked people in such a widely divergent areas. In the 20's and 30's people had pride in their work. They did things with cement that it would be impossible to duplicate today. These skills disappeared after WWII and were replaced by love of money.

The greast building achievement since the Pyramids, was done by the man who took the outhouse from the backyard and put it on the 2nd floor.

Two of my favorite memories were the first talky - the Jazz Singer with Al Jolson and Seventh Heaven with Charly Terrell and Janet Gaynor. I also went around with several dancers and chorus girls. I was backstage many times and used to like to watch a show from the wings. I went with one dancer, whenever I was close to where she was playing, for about 7 years.


I need help identifying these people - Bonfield and Frumveller gathering c1924 Chicago

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